Thursday, November 24, 2011

Is it the Sled or the Hill that Makes for a Good Ride?

The other day, we got a few inches of snow.  After the kids left for school, I was looking out at our backyard and with new eyes realized that some of our neighbors' backyards are nicely sloped and might serve us well this winter.  Our old neighborhood was flat and we always ended up driving to a good sledding hill.  Our new neighborhood has serious potential and our neighbors' yards in the back slope down into our backyard.  My hope is that the neighbors will be okay with my kids sledding down their hill, as we will be ok with their kids landing in our backyard. I think it will be a good trade off.

So, as I was looking out at the neighbor's slopes, it reminded me of my childhood.

In the late 70's, early 80's my parents bought us a Toboggan for Christmas.  On Christmas morning...under the tree...are you kidding me, it was amazing. At that moment, it seemed to be the best present of all time.  I am pretty sure it was regulation size (maybe not, but it was HUGE). It had a big red ribbon on it. In all its glory, it was quite breathtaking.

Throughout the winter, my brothers and I took it out sledding. Each trip ended in the same way. We would either all pile on and then just sit there...absolutely no movement or we would take a running start and all jump at once, only to stick rather than sled down the hill. We tried to make it work. It was long enough. It looked pretty. It just didn't sled properly.

We were street kids.  Our Dad was a cop. We knew survival. So, this is usually what happened...we made nice with some other kid on the hill and we always ended up relying on their sled. We might have even traded sleds with someone new to the hill.  Someone who wasn't aware that our sled actually sucked. The worst part was that we had this HUGE wooden sled that just looked pretty.  We usually had to rely on a kid with a plastic red sled from Target or maybe even from HyVee. Anything was better than our Toboggan.  Yeah, it looked pretty, but clearly, something was wrong with it.

Growing up, we had a hill (sort of) that was between our house and our neighbor's house. Maybe it was more of a slope. It was on the east side of our house. Sledding down this hill took up about 5 seconds of your life.  But, it entertained us for years. Up and down. Up and down. Our yard, down into the Miller's driveway. Sort of a quick ride down a very short hill with a sudden and aburpt stop in the Miller's driveway (quick stop because Jerry had shoveled it so clean).

In the winter, on a daily basis, we reeked havoc on the Miller's driveway and they never complained.  Jerry would shovel the driveway and my brothers and I would sled down the tiny hill only to push new snow onto a freshly shoveled driveway.  Never a complaint from Jerry.

Maybe it was the remarks from the hill. Quite possibly the remarks came from one of us (probably Craig or Jeff, but not me). Anyway, my Dad decided to fix the toboggan. I can't claim to know what he did to the sled. Crisco maybe. WD-40. Something. Whatever he did made the heavens open up and the angels sing. Our toboggan had game.

Within moments of my Dad greasing up the Toboggan, my brother Craig and I grabbed it and headed for our lame ass hill.  We had no expectations.  Our only hope was improvement.  We squared up, jumped on and in the blink of an eye went from the top of the hill to a moment of complete silence and everything went black (I am assuming we beat the speed of light) and then bouncing down into Jerry's driveway...actually skidding over the driveway, through the air and crashing through Jerry's garbage cans and hitting the fence behind the garbage cans. We completely knocked the trash cans over and ended up laying in between the garbage cans and the fence.

Craig and I lay between garbage cans laughing so hard that when Jerry's wife  (Marlene) came running out of her house, she thought we were crying. We had tears running down our faces and I can honestly say I pee'd my pants (snowpants) from laughing so hard. Marlene seemed genuinely concerned.  We continued laughing.  Laughing at the speed of the toboggan. Laughing at the garbage cans...just laughing like kids laugh. All of a sudden she realized that we weren't crying, but laughing.  This made her mad. She started yelling at us (basically for not being hurt) for knocking over her garbage cans.  She told us to get up and go home. I am sure her anger was partly from knocking over her trash cans, but I am guessing it was mainly from years of built up anger over messing up the newly shoveled driveway. We laughed even harder and eventually picked ourselves up and rallied up the hill.

From that moment on, the tobaggon was the vehicle of choice.  My only question...where was my Dad? He just got done greasing up the toboggan for us.  Wouldn't he want to see how it worked?  Did he actually watch us and then when we skidded over the pavement of Jerry's driveway, did he slip into the house?  Maybe he was laughing up at the top of the hill and when he saw Marlene come out of her house, he slowly backed away and then turned and ran into our house.  Who knows?  I am going to have to ask him.

So, anyway...the other day I was looking out at our backyard at our new neighborhood and wondered if these hills behind us have potential. I think that if my brothers and I could make a dinky little slope work for years, my kids can get to know their neighbors and work out a deal to get a piece of their hill. Who knows...maybe a toboggan is in their future.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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